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Turkmen state factories export products through opaque companies linked to the president's nephews

Google trans­lat­ed

One does not have a web­site, and the oth­er failed to get through, but it is these for­eign firms that trade in the prod­ucts of the lead­ing enter­pris­es of the oil and chem­i­cal indus­tries of Turkmenistan.

In September 2018, Turkmenistan cel­e­brat­ed an impor­tant indus­tri­al achieve­ment of the coun­try — the launch of a new state-owned urea plant in the city of Garabogaz on the coast of the Caspian Sea. The media wrote that even for­eign diplo­mats from Ashgabat attend­ed the grand opening.

The Garabogazkarbamide plant, for the con­struc­tion of which the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) issued a loan of $ 1.16 bil­lion, has sig­nif­i­cant­ly increased the capac­i­ty of Turkmenistan in the pro­duc­tion of urea fer­til­iz­er, one of the coun­try’s key export products.

A new inves­ti­ga­tion by OCCRP and part­ners, Turkmen.News and, reveals that among the main exporters of the urea pro­duced at the plant was a dubi­ous Scottish com­pa­ny that does not even have a web­site.Photo: Khadzhimurat Rejepov / InstagramKhadzhimurat Rejepov (left) with his broth­er Shamurat

Moreover, although the share­hold­ers and ulti­mate ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the firm changed sev­er­al times, in fact, the com­pa­ny was secret­ly con­trolled by Khadzhimurat Rejepov, the nephew of Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov.

The inves­ti­ga­tion builds on the Pandora Archive , the leaked mil­lions of doc­u­ments from off­shore cor­po­rate ser­vice providers that the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has shared with partners.

Khadzhimurat is not the only Rejepov in the leaked doc­u­ments. Apparently, his younger broth­er Shamurat used a sim­i­lar scheme and played a sim­i­lar role in a British com­pa­ny that calls itself the lead­ing exporter of petro­le­um prod­ucts at a large Turkmen oil refin­ery (refin­ery).

The leaked doc­u­ments con­tain inter­est­ing infor­ma­tion about the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the com­pa­nies: their share­hold­ers were off­shore “denom­i­na­tions”, which were used to hide the real own­ers. Since the UK began requir­ing dis­clo­sures about “per­sons with sig­nif­i­cant con­trol” in the enter­prise, sev­er­al lit­tle-known Turkmen cit­i­zens have appeared in the dec­la­ra­tions. Those who OCCRP reporters were able to con­tact declined to com­ment.How Khadzhimurat prof­it­ed from starv­ing TurkmensIn May, OCCRP and part­ners revealed how Khadzhimurat Rejepov made mon­ey on a lucra­tive gov­ern­ment con­tract to import food for hun­gry cit­i­zens of Turkmenistan.Read more

Ties with the elite allow the Rejepov broth­ers to live a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent life than most cit­i­zens of Turkmenistan, which human rights activists call one of the most author­i­tar­i­an coun­tries in the world. President Berdymukhamedov over­sees almost every aspect of polit­i­cal life and econ­o­my, includ­ing the approval of bank card designs and medals for dog shows.

Turkmenistan does not pub­lish gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments in the pub­lic domain, and they have not heard of free­dom of the press here. This makes it extreme­ly dif­fi­cult for inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ists and civ­il soci­ety to find out what is hap­pen­ing in the country.

Khadzhimurat and Shamurat Rejepov, as well as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of President Berdymukhamedov’s admin­is­tra­tion, did not respond to requests for comment.

Import and export

The new state-owned urea plant has made Turkmenistan the region’s lead­ing fer­til­iz­er exporter: accord­ing to doc­u­ments from the UN Comtrade data­base for 2019 and 2020, the coun­try export­ed over 1.6 mil­lion tonnes of urea.

Photo: “Turkmenhimiya“The urea plant locat­ed in Garabogaz, built with a loan from a Japanese bank, belongs to the state con­cern “Turkmenhimiya”

There is no pub­licly avail­able trade data reveal­ing how impor­tant the Scottish com­pa­ny Caran Holdings was in this. However, var­i­ous sources indi­cate that she got a large piece of the pie.

In 2018, a man who iden­ti­fied him­self as Caran’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive at the new plant was inter­viewed by the gov­ern­ment news­pa­per Turkmenistan. He said the com­pa­ny signed an agree­ment to export 1.2 mil­lion tons of urea pro­duced at the plant through Georgian and Russian ports.

He also said that the com­pa­ny has agreed with a state firm to buy 200,000 tons of fer­til­iz­er, which they planned to sell to China, India, Egypt and sev­er­al African countries.

If this is true, then the com­pa­ny is the only fer­til­iz­er exporter from Turkmenistan. (However, the infor­ma­tion in Comtrade may be incomplete.)

Several inde­pen­dent sources also cite the firm as a major play­er in the market.

Argus Media, which pro­vides infor­ma­tion on prices for ener­gy and oth­er goods based on data from the gov­ern­ment of Turkmenistan, called Caran “the largest sup­pli­er of Turkmen urea by riv­er routes this year.”

The jour­nal­ists also got doc­u­ments con­tain­ing Caran sales sta­tis­tics. In 2020, the firm sold 213,000 tonnes of urea to a Russian trad­ing com­pa­ny, which trans­ferred the goods to US buyers.

An indus­try source also said the com­pa­ny reg­u­lar­ly exports tens of thou­sands of tons of fer­til­iz­er. He agreed to speak with reporters on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty and pro­vid­ed sev­er­al dozen invoic­es in sup­port of his words.

Scottish secrets

The pres­i­den­t’s nephew, Khadzhimurat Rejepov, is the only notable per­son in the Caran doc­u­ments. He was list­ed as the own­er of the com­pa­ny from January to November 2020.The pow­er of attor­ney issued in 2019 gave Rejepov the right to “make pay­ments, con­trol, mod­i­fy and exe­cute any busi­ness con­tracts and issues … relat­ed to the com­pa­ny’s activ­i­ties and affairs.”

This fact is dif­fi­cult to explain: if they want­ed to hide his involve­ment in the com­pa­ny, then it was most like­ly a mis­take. The jour­nal­ists found out that all oth­er actions dur­ing the exis­tence of the com­pa­ny were aimed at avoid­ing his exposure.

Apart from those nine months, on paper, the own­ers of the com­pa­ny have always been hired lawyers or off­shore firms — this is a typ­i­cal way to hide the true own­ers of a business.

Despite the fact that since 2017 the UK has required com­pa­nies like Caran to to pro­vide infor­ma­tion about “per­sons with sig­nif­i­cant con­trol” — this is the way the real ben­e­fi­cia­ries are iden­ti­fied in the coun­try — Rejepova was not indi­cat­ed in the doc­u­ments of the company.

However, there is oth­er evi­dence that he played an impor­tant role in Caran. First of all, two sources who worked with Rejepov, who asked not to dis­close their names for secu­ri­ty rea­sons, said that it was he who actu­al­ly con­trolled the company.

This is also con­firmed by doc­u­ments from the “Pandora’s Archive”. His name appears in two pow­ers of attor­ney for the man­age­ment of the com­pa­ny dat­ing from dif­fer­ent years: one doc­u­ment is a draft, and the sec­ond is signed and sealed. The first was pre­pared in December 2018, a few months after the open­ing of the plant.

The jour­nal­ists also found out that two more peo­ple, who are list­ed as “per­sons with sig­nif­i­cant con­trol” in Caran’s doc­u­ments, worked for Rejepov.

Among them was Kerimberdy Yalkabov, who, like Rejepov, received a “pow­er of attor­ney” to man­age the firm. The jour­nal­ists rec­og­nized Yalkabov’s phone num­ber and checked it through GetContact, an appli­ca­tion that dis­plays how the own­er of the num­ber is record­ed in oth­er peo­ple’s address books. He has been referred to sev­er­al times as an “employ­ee” or “assis­tant” to Haji (Khadzhimurat’s nick­name), as well as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Caran Holdings.

The pow­er of attor­ney issued in 2019 gave Rejepov the right to “make pay­ments, con­trol, mod­i­fy and exe­cute any busi­ness con­tracts and issues … relat­ed to the com­pa­ny’s activ­i­ties and affairs.”

In 2019, the pub­li­ca­tion “Business Turkmenistan” pub­lished pho­tographs from the inter­na­tion­al exhi­bi­tion “Oil and Gas of Turkmenistan — 2019” held in Ashgabat. The Caran logo is also vis­i­ble in the pho­to of the Ak Khazyna stand.

The sec­ond per­son was Gulnar Charyarova, who is list­ed on the bill of lad­ing as the chief accoun­tant of the Ak Khazyna com­pa­ny . It fol­lows from the doc­u­ments that this Turkmen com­pa­ny was the rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Caran in the coun­try. It was she who bought urea at the state com­mod­i­ty and raw mate­ri­als exchange of Turkmenistan, and then trans­ferred it to Caran for sub­se­quent export. (Turkmenistan does not pub­lish cor­po­rate data pub­licly, how­ev­er, in the doc­u­ments that have come to the dis­pos­al of jour­nal­ists, Rejepov is list­ed as the direc­tor of the enterprise.)

Finally, since 2019, Rejepov has been list­ed as the sole share­hold­er, and since 2020, the direc­tor of Caran Holdings Limited, a Hong Kong com­pa­ny of the same name. This is con­firmed by data from the local cor­po­rate reg­is­ter. The jour­nal­ists were unable to find out if this com­pa­ny is engaged in any com­mer­cial activity.

Oil and gas

Caran, con­trolled by Khadzhimurat, bought and sold fer­til­iz­ers, and his younger broth­er Shamurat was appar­ent­ly asso­ci­at­ed with the Delanore com­pa­ny, which sells prod­ucts of the Turkmen chem­i­cal indus­try and petro­le­um prod­ucts pro­duced by state-owned enter­pris­es of the oil and gas sec­tor of Turkmenistan.

Although the com­pa­ny’s web­site says that it is “the lead­ing exporter / importer of petro­le­um prod­ucts in the Middle East and CIS coun­tries,” it was cre­at­ed in strict secrecy.

The com­pa­ny was found­ed in the UK in 2015 by a cit­i­zen of the Seychelles, and its sub­se­quent own­ers were clear “face values”.

In pub­licly avail­able doc­u­ments, the name of Shamurat Rejepov was nev­er men­tioned in con­nec­tion with this com­pa­ny. As in the case of Caran, even in the inter­nal files of Delanore, which were at the dis­pos­al of jour­nal­ists, the ben­e­fi­cial own­ers were non-pub­lic cit­i­zens of Turkmenistan, about whose activ­i­ties noth­ing is known.

However, the Pandora’s Archive con­tained a signed and sealed pow­er of attor­ney that the com­pa­ny issued to Shamurat Rejepov in February 2020 — the same doc­u­ment his broth­er received from Caran.

It is not known why Shamurat need­ed this doc­u­ment, which was valid for only eight months. However, at the end of this peri­od, Delanore, appar­ent­ly, began a new stage: Turkish cit­i­zen Asie Jeren Chap became the own­er and direc­tor of the company.

Its appear­ance marked the expan­sion of the com­pa­ny: that year, anoth­er Delanore was opened in Turkey, which also belonged to Chap. The Delanore Group’s new web­site says the com­pa­ny sup­plies food, petro­le­um prod­ucts and oth­er goods. It also lists affil­i­at­ed firms of the same name in the UAE, Turkmenistan and the UK.

Chap her­self is not con­sid­ered a well-known fig­ure in busi­ness, how­ev­er, when she got mar­ried, she end­ed up in the fam­i­ly of Muhammet Chap, a Turkish busi­ness­man whose con­struc­tion com­pa­ny car­ried out gov­ern­ment con­tracts in Turkmenistan in the 2000s.

Muhammet Chap start­ed his busi­ness, per­form­ing con­struc­tion gov­ern­ment con­tracts in Turkmenistan under the first pres­i­dent of the coun­try, Saparmurat Niyazov. The Turkmen leader died in 2006, but Chap’s com­pa­ny Sehil Inşaat Endustri ve Ticaret Ltd con­tin­ued to receive mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar con­tracts under Berdymukhamedov. In 2010, the busi­ness­man had to leave the coun­try — as he him­self said before the arbi­tra­tion of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes, due to harass­ment by gov­ern­ment offi­cials and law enforce­ment officers.

According to the mate­ri­als of the arbi­tra­tion pro­ceed­ings on the claim brought by Muhammet Chap to the gov­ern­ment of Turkmenistan, the busi­ness­man and his chil­dren faced pres­sure and harass­ment. They were alleged­ly threat­ened with a ban on leav­ing the country.

It is not known whether Shamurat Rejepov was involved in the new, larg­er Delanore struc­ture. Neither he nor Asia Jeren Chap spoke to reporters. Another woman from Turkmenistan, who is list­ed in the doc­u­ments as a share­hold­er of the British Delanore, as well as her son, who has the sta­tus of a “per­son with sig­nif­i­cant con­trol”, declined to com­ment. Delanore’s UK and Dubai offices could not be contacted.

However, the scale of the com­pa­ny’s oper­a­tions in Turkmenistan (the web­site says it imports and exports a vari­ety of goods from the coun­try) sug­gests that some­one with con­nec­tions and influ­ence is help­ing it in Ashgabat.

Several leads lead to Shamurat Rejepov.

The jour­nal­ists called Delanore’s office in Ashgabat. The per­son who answered the phone said it was Ak Rovach, which rep­re­sents Delanore in Turkmenistan. According to him, regard­ing the pur­chase of oil prod­ucts, one should con­tact his “boss”, Dovran Niyazov.Photo: Ibabekir Bekdurdyev / InstagramShamurat Rejepov (cen­ter) and Ukkashe Chap (right) rest on a pri­vate yacht

The Pandora Archives dis­clos­es that Niyazov had a pow­er of attor­ney to run Britain’s Delanore, which was in effect at about the same time as Rejepov. Moreover, jour­nal­ists checked his num­ber through GetContact and found sev­er­al evi­dence of his involve­ment in Delanore, Shamurat Rejepov and the oil business.

Niyazov refused to speak to reporters.

Despite the fact that things were not easy for the Chap fam­i­ly in Turkmenistan, Rejepov com­mu­ni­cates with one of its mem­bers: in the pho­to on Instagram we see him on a pri­vate yacht in Turkey with Ukkash Chap, one of the sons of Muhammet Chap.

Nephews in Dubai

It is not known how much Khadzhimurat and Shamurat Rejepovs earned by export­ing urea and oil prod­ucts from Turkmenistan. Nevertheless, their con­di­tion can be judged by real estate in the UAE.

Khadzhimurat Rejepov has nine apart­ments in five res­i­den­tial com­plex­es: Sparkle Tower 2, Damac Heights, Sadaf 4, TFG Marina, where the Wyndham Hotel is locat­ed, and Matrix Tower, accord­ing to the leak of data from the reg­is­ter of real estate own­ers in Dubai pro­vid­ed by the research orga­ni­za­tion C4ADS to OCCRP.

Shamurat owns sev­en apart­ments in Sparkle Tower 2, Damac Heights and TFG Marina.

All except the Matrix Tower are locat­ed in the pres­ti­gious Dubai Marina, near the famous Palm Jumeirah arti­fi­cial arch­i­pel­ago. Shamurat owns sev­en apart­ments in Sparkle, Damac Heights and TFG Marina Hotel.

The leaked files do not indi­cate the date of pur­chase, but judg­ing by when the infor­ma­tion was entered into the data­base, the prop­er­ty was acquired after 2018 — around the time when Caran and Delanore were more active.

Comparing the 16 apart­ments of the Rejepovs with sim­i­lar apart­ments in these com­plex­es, which are now for sale, jour­nal­ists from OCCRP and part­ners esti­mat­ed the broth­ers’ real estate at about $ 5.5 million.

OCCRP by Ruslan Myatiev, Matthew Kupfer and Bayram Shikhmuradov

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